History of Filipino Food, Spanish Influence

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Prior to this entry, I posted an article that talks about traces of Mexican food in Filipino Food

Before we get serious and start speaking poems in Spanish, let’s play a game. I want you to copy the dishes below, paste it in the comments, give them a description… in your own words and that means no googling, no wikipedia, no cheating and submit it. Do it. Give yourself a little bit of fun. You deserve it. You can describe them any way you like, if you don’t know, just make a wild guess. Don’t read on, do this first!



Arroz Caldo






Camaron Rebosado









Did you have fun? Was it easy for you? How many wild guesses did you make?

Now let’s get serious. Recite the following stanza’s below in your own Spanish accent. Do it loud and do it with flair.

Adios, Patria adorada, region del sol querida,
Perla del Mar de Oriente, nuestro perdido Eden!
A darte voy alegre la triste mustia vida,
Y fuera más brillante más fresca, más florida,
Tambien por tí la diera, la diera por tu bien.

Adios, Patria adorada, region del sol querida,
Perla del Mar de Oriente, nuestro perdido Eden!
A darte voy alegre la triste mustia vida,
Y fuera más brillante más fresca, más florida,
Tambien por tí la diera, la diera por tu bien.

Here it is in English:

Farewell, my adored Land, region of the sun caressed,
Pearl of the Orient Sea, our Eden lost,
With gladness I give you my Life, sad and repressed;
And were it more brilliant, more fresh and at its best,
I would still give it to you for your welfare at most.

My idolized Country, for whom I most gravely pine,
Dear Philippines, to my last goodbye, oh, harken
There I leave all: my parents, loves of mine,
I’ll go where there are no slaves, tyrants or hangmen
Where faith does not kill and where God alone does reign.

Those are the first and second-to-the-last stanza of the the poem, The Last Farewell, by the Philippines’ National Hero, Jose Rizal, written on the eve of his execution by firing squad for crimes of sedition, rebellion and conspiracy against the Kingdom of Spain. When your women are bowing in the church not because they are praying but because they are serving the bishop’s sexual appetite, when your men have been snatched away without any explanation and hope for return, and when your children are treated worse than animals, you will have to  raise your voice like what Jose Rizal did, and be fearless of death itself. Out of all the tortures, the deaths, the rapes, the pillage and horrendous experience that our ancestors had, I cannot reconcile myself with this time of our history… unless I sink my teeth in one of the good things (if not the only one) that the Philippines acquired from the Spanish… Mediterranean cooking. And that what sets the Philippines apart from its South East Asia counterparts.

The influence of the Spanish turned the Philippine wok accelerating to a revolutionary spin with only 3 ingredients – Garlic, Onion and Tomatoes. Garlic is a basic ingredient in Spanish cooking. They love it, they cook a lot with it. The red onions that every Filipino household always stocks in their pantry (or can be easily bought by a-piece at a nearest neighbor) are actually Spanish onions. Need I elaborate further? Tomato on the other hand is a Mexican native. Read from this post to know more about it. But the Spanish in all it’s conquering glory, made the tomato their colonizer’s crown and placed it as a trophy in every corner of their cuisine – and Filipinos as loyal subjects took that unwritten mandate seriously. The influence of Spanish cuisine in Filipino cooking is staggering that almost half of our dishes begin with sauteing garlic, onions and tomatoes… this infamous triad is one Filipino cuisine characteristic that is unique from any other cuisine in the world.  Ask any Filipino about it and you’ll have your eggs with garlic, onions and tomatoes.

I’ll give you at least 4 dishes that were native to the Philippines but took on a different twist because of the Spanish influence on Filipino food mainly, sauteing garlic, onions and tomato to commence the recipe.

Pinkabet – This is a stir fry of native Filipino vegetables but is complemented very well into a savory delight by what else, garlic onions and tomato

Sinigang – Your traditional Siningang doesn’t start with the trio but a lot of people I know would like to keep the “saute first” secret to theirselves. I’m so sorry for kissing and telling.

Bagoong – Remember shrimp paste from this post? Filipinos decided that it is best to saute shrimp paste first with those 3 fine ingredients because it doesn’t stink that much and it cleanses the shrimp paste from athlete’s foot. Beats me.

Ginisang Monggo – Or better known as Mung Bean Soup outside the Philippines. And you have to choose the sweetest tomato for sauteing or else your Monggo will be sad and sour (although there are Mung bean soup variations that are made to be sour, others put coco milk in it too).

The Spanish influence in Filipinos could have been more celebrated and revered if not for the injustice that our ancestors bore during the colonization. I myself still feel a sting when I think of them. What pains me more is that at the end of it all, the Philippines was just sold to the Americans for $20,000,000. Quite cheap for a group of island paradise and a priceless people.

Americans… let’s talk about them next in this series.

Click this if you are wondering what is the difference between the Filipino-Spanish stews – Afritada, Menudo, Mechado and Kaldereta

If you want to read on about the history of Filipino food, click here to see what Japanese influences in Filipino cuisine



Author: Ziggy

Ziggy grew up in the "dirty kitchen" of his grandmother. Literally. He would spend his pre-school days watching her cook crazy Filipino food. His love for food set him up in a journey through the kitchens of the Philippines to chef-swearing laden restaurants of Melbourne where he has worked mainly as a dishwasher, stockist, searcher of missing ingredients, deep frier of everything, arranger of antipasti on a supposed to be chopping board, kitchen cart surfer, emergency pastry chef, take-the-pans-we're-on-a-ciggy-break, chefs' cook of take home food, salad scientist and quite a number of mundane everyday things in the kitchen. Are you still reading this? He has quit that 1pm to 3am job now that he has learned to write. thus this site came to existence.

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  1. Bistek-beef steaks
    Callos-pork, tripe stew
    Arroz Caldo-chicken and rice porridge
    Empanada-meat pies
    Barquillos-rolled wafers
    Paella-seafood, chicken and rice
    Chicharron-pork cracklings
    Camaron Rebosado-stuffed prawns
    Torta-pastry (?)
    Picadillo-minced beef and potatoes
    Pochero-beef, pork and chicken stew
    Escabeche-fried fish with a sweet/sour sauce
    Polvoron-cookie made with flour, sugar and milk powder
    Estofado-a stew

    Would be interesting to see how the Filipino versions compare with the Originals.

    Fun post, Ziggy!

  2. This is what I got
    Bistek – A beef dish that is marinated over night and served with onions and a little sauce.
    Callos – A soup?
    Arroz Caldo – A rice porriage that would include saffron, ginger, and chicken.
    Empanada – A mini meat pie in a shape of a half moon
    Barquillos – deep fried donuts
    Embutido – A meat loaf type dish that is shaped in a cyninder.
    Paella – A rice dish that incorporates various meats and has a spanish taste behind it.
    Chicharron – Deep fried animal skin.
    Camaron Rebosado – no idea
    Torta – an omlet filled with potatoes or anything at all
    Picadillo – A relish of some sort.
    Pochero – deep fried pork?
    Escabeche – Fish covered in tomato sauce
    Polvoron – A flour based candy.
    Estofado – a rice dish with beef?
    Macaparoyo- no idea

  3. Bistek–beef steak Filipino style (can also be pork) cooked in a mixture of calamansi and soy sauce with lots of onions

    Callos–tripe, chickpeas in tomato sauce

    Arroz Caldo–rice and chicken porridge flavored with ginger

    Empanada–meat filled flaky pie pastries

    Barquillos–flaky rolled cookies eaten with ice cream

    Embutido–ground meat and vegetables rolled into a log and steamed

    Paella–rice, meat, seafood, vegetables cooked with saffron and garnished with egg

    Chicharron–pork skin crackling

    Camaron Rebosado–deep fried shrimp coated in batter


    Picadillo–ground pork and potatoes sauteed in tomatoes, onions and garlic

    Pochero–meat stew like nilaga but with tomato sauce

    Escabeche–sweet and sour fish

    Polvoron–cooked powdered milk and butter, shaped and wrapped in japanese paper

    Estofado–stew (lengua estofado–ox tongue stew)

    Macaparoyo–hmm this is the first time I’ve ever come across this word :)

    had fun with this…but what is macaparoyo?

  4. Bistek – a local actor who rose to popularity for his slapstick humour, and who has now opted to savour the sauciness of the dish called Philippine politics

    Callos – hard skin; usually found on feet caused by prolonged standing, obesity, badly-fitting shoes, bunions and abnormalities of gait

    Arroz Caldo – the Spanish way of saying “good job, bald man!”

    Empanada – Em’s dad is gone.

    Barquillos – a very heavy rod. equivalent to 2.2 barpounds.

    Embutido – an objection directed to Em, when she says “you don’t”

    Paella – trying hard to be Ella. in Filipino usage: “masyado ka namang paella diyan.”

    Chicharron – that’s sharon.

    Camaron Rebosado – someone who jumps at every opportunity to drive a chevy

    Torta – the Lone Ranger’s companion’s wife.

    Picadillo – what women usually say to the erotic shop salesperson when asked what they are there for. this phrase is usually said rapidly because of embarrassment, in which case the letter D is only audible to the very trained ear.

    Pochero – Spanish. noun. a coachman, or a man whose business it was to drive a horse-drawn vehicle.

    Escabeche – bastardized Spanglish for “are you milk?”

    Polvoron – a woman’s cosmetic. similar to face powder. also sometimes used to describe the state of a woman’s face, used interchangeably with espasol. usually the cause of the above phrase being asked.

    Estofado – an idiot. a moron.

    Macaparoyo – a character in Philippine folklore, similar to the tiyanak, and is believed to be a horrific monster that cannot be extinguished. this creature saps all the energy and resources around it, is highly manipulative and loves to prey on the weak and the innocent.

  5. LOL @ LEI. hahaha. effort.

  6. @Lei: does ciggy have a barquillos? ROFLMAO

  7. @Justin hahaha i love it!

    @mesai hmmm…. you… you…


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